Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Windfall by Krissi Dallas

Windfall is book two of the Phantom Island series by Krissi Dallas. It picks up right where Windchaser left off. (If you missed my review of Windchaser, click here) Whitnee Terradora and her friends are marooned on the mysterious White Island with Hot Island Boy (Gabriel) serving as their protector and guide. Everyone on the island, including Gabriel, seems to be keeping a host of secrets that not only frustrate but possibly endanger Whitnee and her friends. At the end of Windchaser, the group from the Mainland Beyond (aka our world) is visiting the village of Aerodora, home of those who are gifted with the life force of Wind. While there, they meet the Guardian of the island and hear of a prophecy that may or may not involve Whitnee in some way. From Aerodora they set out on a tour of the other villages: Geodora (home of the Earth-loving Geodorians), Hydrodora (watery dwelling place of the Water people) and Pyradora (nestled right up to a volcano - the ideal spot for any Pyra). They meet new friends, encounter suspicious characters, deal with danger, and play with all sorts of interesting powers. Oh and did I mention a little romance? Perhaps involving a Hot Island Boy? (wink wink)

I thought Windfall moved much faster than Windchaser (not that Windchaser was slow). The first book told most of Whitnee's backstory and got the main characters to the White Island; the second book is where (almost) all the fun happens. I loved the rich detail that Krissi poured into the sights, sounds, and smells of the tribal villages, especially Geodora. I found myself really wishing I could sit down to a Geodorian feast with beautiful flowers on my head and around my neck, the way Whitnee and her friends did. Yum! The last half of the book felt a little rushed to me, as events plunge headlong toward the dramatic and emotional climax. I think while I was reading a few chapters I almost forgot to breathe. I am now eagerly anticipating the third volume, Watercrossing (more information here).

Just as a reminder, I am a fan of Krissi's and I hope anyone reading this will support her by picking up (or downloading) a copy of her books! They are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and everywhere you buy books. Thanks and happy reading!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Windchaser by Krissi Dallas

I'm making life hard on myself this week. After writing a review of a book that was fascinating and brilliant but hard to talk about (Words by Ginny Yttrup), now I'm attempting the daunting task of reviewing a book written by someone I know. It's true that Krissi and I have never actually met, but Greg worked with her, I (usually) read her blog, and we're friends on Facebook, so I feel like I know her. I've followed the journey of Windchaser and Windfall from a single, self-published volume (Phantom Island: Wind) to the two volumes now published by Tate. I even have my own autographed copies of the shiny new books. I feel like I've shared a teeny tiny part of the whole process, which somehow makes reviewing them feel a little intimidating. So I guess I'll just do it anyway.

Luckily, I enjoyed Windchaser very much. It's a fun story with fun characters. Whitnee is a somewhat-troubled teenage girl who, along with her best friends Morgan and Caleb, is spending the summer as a mentor at Camp Fusion. The camp is a place where preteens who have gone through traumatic experiences can find hope and healing and a path to a normal life. Whitnee met Morgan and Caleb during her summer as a camper, after her father's disappearance. Years later, the three return to the camp to revisit their experiences there and to give back by helping other campers work through their own difficult times. One night they set out to explore the forbidden property across the Frio River and are rather dramatically transported to the mysterious White Island, where Whitnee suddenly develops strange powers and everyone seems to have been expecting her arrival. Whitnee must find a way to deal with these unexpected events, keep her friendships strong, and try to get everyone home, hopefully before anyone realizes they are gone!

There are several things I liked about this book. The characters are very real, and clearly very young. You get treated to some pretty awesome teenage camp drama (anyone else remember those days? I sure do!) before the setting shifts to the White Island. Whitnee's emotions are very turbulent as she deals with the confusion of being attracted to (gasp!) more than one guy, tension between her campers, and the pain of wondering what really happened to her dad. It's really easy to get caught up in all of it. In addition, Krissi has a definite knack for worldbuilding. You can see it during the camp scenes, but once the story moves to the Island, it really shines. You can almost get the feeling that this place actually exists somewhere; it's that real. The scenery, the people, the tribes, and the village of Aerodora: it feels like Krissi really knows these places and these people, and therefore the readers can really get to know them, too.

I did read (and review) the original version of this book and its sequel, and I appreciate the subtle differences. The biggest thing I noticed is that it seems a little more polished and cohesive, and I appreciated that. My favorite scenes, the ones I remembered best from the first reading, are all still there, so I was happy. This book does end somewhat suddenly, leaving you with the feeling that you're right in the middle of something, which is true. It picks up with Windfall, which I'm planning to pick up shortly after I post this review!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Words by Ginny Yttrup

First of all, I have to say that this was an incredible book. I have put off posting a review about it because it's a little hard to just talk about the book. It's the kind of thing that you really have to experience for yourself. That said, I'm going to give a review a shot.

Kaylee Wren is ten years old and lives in an almost unimaginably horrible situation. After being abandoned by her mother and trapped in a tiny shack with a man who abuses her terribly, Kaylee is no longer able to speak. Instead, she amuses herself by reading a dictionary and imagining what the words sound like. Sierra Dawn is a thirty-four year old artist whose past mistakes haunt her life. When the two meet unexpectedly, events are set in motion that will change both of their lives and lead them toward the healing that is found only in Jesus.

This is an intense book. It is written in first-person present tense, which really pulls the reader into the minds and hearts of the two main characters. It deals with some very difficult topics with great insight and sensitivity, and ultimately points to the peace, hope, and love that God offers each of us. Despite the heavy material, there are some sweet, light-hearted, and heart-warming moments, especially with the precocious and word-loving Kaylee. Yttrup is truly a gifted writer and this is a remarkable book. I highly recommend it, especially if you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual abuse. In spite of the ugly beginning, it is ultimately a beautiful tale of redemption, healing, and hope.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Final update

Whew! November was certainly an interesting month. I think I can honestly say that I have never given myself a writing goal and then actually worked toward it before. In some ways I liked it and in some ways I didn't. I think I wrote some pretty awful stuff just so I could say I had written something. I did make significant progress in my novel, and had the joy of writing several scenes that had been stuck in my head for quite some time. Probably for years. I did not, however, "win" National Novel Writing Month by writing a novel of 50,000 words, and I didn't finish my book. I wrote 25,000 words and am now about 2/3 into my book. For me, that's pretty good progress in a month.

I learned a lot during this process. I learned that it really is a good idea to have writing goals and discipline. It's also a good idea, for me at least, to write first and edit later. NaNo forced me to just keep going, even if I'd just written something that I thought was really awful. Maybe when I go back later, it won't seem so bad. And even if it does, I can always fix it.

I am planning to try again and actually win next year. Next time, I'll plan to start a new novel instead of beginning the month 30,000 words into one, and see how that goes. Even though I didn't win this year, I am glad I decided to give it a try. I now have 55,000 words written, and am hoping to have a complete rough draft in another month or two.

Thank you for joining me on this journey!